Presumably nobody is talking about the pricey Ithaca Classic Doubles, which were being manufactured by another company with Ithaca's blessing. That arrangement fell by the wayside last spring, however, and it's rumored that Ithaca will offer its own double guns again beginning in 2004. Stand by for news of that. Other notable changes in the grouse gun list after 20 years include a significant increase in the popularity of Beretta over/under models (No. 411, etc.); they jumped from sharing last place in 1982 to fifth and sixth places in 2002. The Franchi autoloader holds a position on both lists, but in two different gauges (first in 12-gauge, now in 20-gauge), and the 20-gauge Benelli Black Eagle is now a contender. The 12-gauge over/under Winchester Models 101 and 1001 shared last place with Beretta at the bottom of the 1982 Top 10 list. In 2002, it's the Parker side-by-side 20-gauge and Remington 20-gauge pump. Almost the only rating difference in the bottom ranks is due to alphabetical order. [pagebreak] Gauging the Changes
One thing that hasn't changed over two decades has been the popularity of the 20-gauge. It's at the top, which says something about the timeless appreciation for a gauge that gets the job done without entailing the need to lug around a heavy gun. The ruffed grouse is a rather soft-feathered bird (compared to waterfowl, for example) and most shots are taken within 30 yards, making the usual 20-gauge load of 7/8 ounce more than sufficient.